Saturday, May 19, 2012

Kitsch-en Kounter: Putting The Cherry on Top!

I love maraschino cherries!  To me, anything can be made immediately more special with the addition of these supernatural delights (natural bounty enhanced by the addition of the food color, sugar, etc. makes them pretty darn super, am I right?).  I must talk about my love far too often because a few years ago for my birthday, a friend at work gave me a gallon jar of maraschino cherries.  A very happy birthday indeed!

See what I mean?
A cherry takes plain old pudding from
pedestrian to pleasing.

An ordinary cake is elevated by the very presence of cherries.

From puddings to Christmas Hams, maraschino cherries make EVERYTHING better!!!

Many years ago, under the auspices of some long-forgotten benefactor, my family got to eat at Club 33 at Disneyland.  Much of what happened that day is lost to time and poor memory, but the thing I remember most vividly is the fact that I was allowed to order a 7-Up (we rarely had the privilege of ordering anything but water) and in that soda was not one, but two, candied cherries - one red, one GREEN!  Oh, the hedonism!  I have yet to be diagnosed, but there must be some kind of syndrome/disorder where one can barely remember one's own phone number, but can remember the details of a single soft drink that was consumed more than twenty years ago!

Recently, I came across a recipe of mid-century origins for a maraschino cherry cake.  I am not a baker; I think it's because I don't like recipes very much.  I love to cook, but as insatiable as my sweet tooth might be, I find that my talents are better suited to the savory end of the culinary spectrum where measurements don't have to be so exact.  My love of maraschino cherries extends so far that I even incorporate them into savory recipes like my Pineapple Upside-Down Loaf.  Undeterred by natural inability to bake, I set out to make this cherry cake and make it (bake it) I did.

The cake was leaning...looks like I over-corrected to compensate

My mom said that an old family friend was the inventor of the maraschino cherry.  "That can't be," I thought to myself.  The maraschino cherry is as old as the maraschino cherry tree.  Indeed, he would have to be an OLD family friend as the maraschino cherry is named for the Marasca wine-soaked cherries of 16th Century Croatia!  It turns out, he was instrumental in developing the modern process for brining/curing/coloring maraschino cherries.  My debt of gratitude can never be paid.

Maraschino Cherry fun facts:

* In 2009, 8.86 million pounds of cherries were brined to create Maraschino Cherries. (Source)

* In America, 1.2 lbs. per capita of Maraschino Cherries are consumed annually. (Source)  That is about equal to their consumption of fresh cherries at 1.9lbs. (Source)

* Maraschino Cherry is a common name given by the FDA to any processed cherry in which the fruit has been "dyed red, impregnated with sugar, and  packed in a sugar syrup flavored with oil of bitter almonds or a similar flavor." (Source)

I would share the cake recipe that I used, but the fact is that the internet is just lousy with recipes for Maraschino Cherry Cakes and as promising as the recipe seemed this one didn't turn out as delicious as I had hoped.  It was tasty, but it didn't blow my mind.

I will take some of the responsibility because, as I mentioned, my prowess as a pastry chef has always left a little to be desired; in my mind it is because I have a hard time with "recipes."  I prefer being a tad more experimental than most baking recipes allow and I just can't seem to leave well-enough alone - this cake was no exception.  I replaced the called for walnuts with sliced, toasted almonds.  Doesn't cherry and almond seem like a more natural combination than cherry and walnut?  Don't get me wrong, old faithful walnut, I like you and your flavor profile is just tops in cookies, but almonds really "take the cake" if you know what I mean.  If I were to tweak this recipe more, I would triple the amount of cherries (at least) and throw in some more juice - I wanted a CHERRY cake!!!  

Yours until the next baking disaster adventure....


Mr. Tiny


  1. I'm SO with you in this addiction! I'm the person who looks at the person beside me and says, "you going to eat that cherry?" as it bobs invitingly in their drink. Too bad about the cake. It's still super pretty though! I've got a Paula Deen recipe for a cherry cake that is supposed to be a good one. I'll let you know how it goes.

    1. I do the same thing!! I can't wait to hear about your cake; they always turn out so beautifully!!!

  2. I love maraschino cherries! I always put at least 4 in my Shirley Temple. Actually, they are the reason I even drink Shirley Temples. Again, only you can write an amazing post on cherries. Yum.

    1. Thanks Emily! I'm glad I'm not alone in my love for maraschino cherries. I'll toast you with a Shirley Temple!!!

  3. I also love them! I have a recipe for maraschino cherry cookies that we make at christmas. I lust over those pink cookies all year, they are my favorite. I can send you the recipe if you would like it :D

    1. Please share the recipe; I prefer cookies to cake anyway!!!! Maraschino Cherry cookies sound awesome!

  4. mmm, i'm a marachino nut as well. i can still remember once when my grandparents took me out to j. alexander's and i got a shirley temple as usual, and the nice waiter brought me a little cup FULL of the cherries! It was as if he had given me a million dollars! i bought a little jar last year to make christmas cookies and it lasted about a week, because I made multiple shirley temples every day, with at least two cherries each time!

    1. They are magical! They are so common yet somehow, they are undeniably special!